Prop. 123 preserves corporate welfare tax cuts at the expense of education


Despite Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan having been dilatory with a public notice about submitting comments on Prop. 123 for the Special Election pamphlet that will go out to voters, and  most of the GOP-friendly media that has lined up behind Prop, 123 having failed to report that information, More than four dozen file statements opposing Prop. 123:

More than four dozen statements in opposition to Proposition 123 were submitted to Secretary of State Michele Reagan. They will be included in a pamphlet that will be mailed to the homes of all registered voters ahead of the May 17 special election.

The list of foes is not quite like the veritable Who’s Who in business, politics and education, all of whom submitted their own statements in support. That includes Gov. Doug Ducey, House Speaker David Gowan, Arizona Education Association President Andrew Morrill and an assortment of business leaders.

All cite the same theme of getting more money into classrooms without raising taxes. [The First Commandment of the GOP.]

Opponents, however, point up what they see as flaws in the measure. But the question remains whether they can mount any organized opposition to what promises to be a well-financed campaign.

DeWitAt this point the de facto leader appears to be state Treasurer Jeff DeWit.

He waged an unsuccessful effort during the special session to derail the plan, arguing it is not financially sound. DeWit also submitted his own statement of opposition, as did wife Marina and mother Jana.

But he has so far made no efforts to actually organize an opposition campaign — or even raise any money.

“I want to do something,” he told Capitol Media Services. “But I really don’t know what that entails yet.”

DeWit said he has been collecting phone numbers of those who want to kill the ballot measure. He anticipates getting folks together sometime early this coming month to decide how to get the anti-123 message out.

* * *

The treasurer is already looking at ways to attack the plan. And at the center of that is that much of the financing for the $3.5 billion that would be provided to schools over the next decade will come from the trust account already set aside for education.

Public schools already get close to $100 million a year from the account, which consists of proceeds of the sale and lease of land the federal government gave Arizona when it became a state. Proposition 123 would more than double that for the next decade.

DeWit said that’s not financially sound and will result in less aide to schools long term.

But if all the math is too complicated, DeWit has a simpler message.

He pointed out that a majority of the pro-123 statements included in the pamphlet, each at a cost of $75, were paid for by business groups — “somebody that would benefit from the corporate tax cuts that raiding the school trust will give them.”

The Sky Island Scriber blog proposed an apt slogan for this ballot measure: 1, 2, 3, Tax Breaks for Me.

As I have explained, this is “robbing Peter (future generations of students) to pay Paul (current generation of students)” for the money the legislature stole from Arizona’s children and for which it has been ordered to pay restitution by the court. Only the legislature is committing a double theft, reaching into the school district’s bank account, the state land trust for education, to pay the restitution owed with the school districts’ own money. Sweet!

This way Tea-Publican legislators can ignore their constitutionally prescribed duty to raise taxes to pay for public education and the debts of this state, while at the same time preserving the corporate welfare tax cuts they have enacted, with the promise of more tax cuts to come.

The corporate interests are being transparent about this corrupt bargain. Supporters of education funding proposal raise $1.75M:

Proponents of a plan to tap state trust funds for education and put new constitutional caps on total school spending said Monday they already have amassed a campaign war chest of $1.75 million.

And virtually all of that has come from big donors.

The announcement comes as state Treasurer Jeff DeWit admitted he is struggling to find anyone to fund an opposition campaign.

And he charged that the business interests are “afraid” to take a position against Proposition 123, which is being supported by Gov. Doug Ducey.

* * *

In a prepared statement, the governor said that $1.75 million shows “overwhelming support” for the measure.

A full disclosure of who has donated so far will not be available until the middle of March. But other documents already on file with the Secretary of State’s Office show that half of the funds raised have come from just five sources.

Leading that list is $250,000 each from Bob and Renee Parsons. He is the founder of GoDaddy, the Arizona-based company best known for website hosting.

Another $150,000 was donated by Greater Phoenix Leadership, an organization of Phoenix-area corporate executives, with $100,000 from the Helios Education Foundation, which is focused on ensuring students are ready for postsecondary education.

The Arizona State University Foundation and the Salt River Project each donated another $75,000.

At least $1.6 million of the money raised can be traced to donations of at least $10,000.

DeWit scoffed at the fundraising success.

“I have yet to find anybody that’s read the whole thing and truly understands it that likes it,” he said.

Among the problem is that, after 2025, the additional funding disappears. And DeWit said there is no guarantee that lawmakers will make additional money available at that time.

Potentially more significant, voter approval of Proposition 123 would amend the Arizona Constitution to say that, beginning in 2026, lawmakers actually could cut state aid to schools if that figure totals half of the state budget.

That’s not an issue now, with state education funding now about 42 percent of the $9.1 billion spending plan. But it could be a factor if legislators slash funding for other programs, like Medicaid, or find ways to take certain expenses out of the general fund budget and put them into other accounts.

* * *

That still leaves the question of whether DeWit can raise some money to oppose the measure.

“I need to see if there’s money there,” he said. “They run things with an iron fist,” DeWit continued, saying the business community “is afraid to take the other side.”

I am aware of an independent expenditure committee being discussed to oppose Prop. 123, but it is hard to see where the money will come from other than from motivated individuals.

Corporations care more about preserving their corporate welfare tax cuts, and Arizona’s “education leaders” have already sold out by committing themselves to this bad deal.  The GOP-friendly media in this state will support Prop. 123 and turn a blind eye to the double theft occurring and the legislature’s refusal to comply with its constitutionally prescribed duty to raise taxes to pay for public education and the debts of this state. Not one Tea-Publican legislator should be returned to office.

And you should note the obvious, if these corporations can afford to contribute millions of dollars to pass Prop. 123, then obviously they can afford to pay more in taxes to support public education. So why not do that?


    • Bookmarked. After I do some due diligence I’ll donate.

      I’m voting no either way.

      And thank you.

  1. What we really need is a ballot initiative that would increase income tax rates on upper incomes to fund public schools.

  2. What we really need is an Inititive to reverse the corporate tax cuts, cancel the raid on the State Trust Lands Fund, and use the corporate money to fund schools at the correct levels regardless of what the state legislature wants!

    • Well said. Corporate tax cuts pass the cost of government (police, road, schools) on to the local taxpayer while sending the benefits to shareholders and hedge fund managers in New York.

      Good for getting money for your next election from the corporations Super PAC, not so good for the Arizona taxpayer.

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